Italian Styles X3. Italian Grape Ale Suggested style placement: Category 29 (Fruit Beer)
Overall Impression: A sometimes refreshing, sometimes more complex Italian ale characterized by different varieties of grapes.
Aroma: Aromatic characteristics of a particular grape have to be noticeable but do should not overpower the other aromas. The grape/wine character should be pleasant and should not have defects such as oxidation. Malt character is usually restrained while hop aroma can range from medium-low to absent. Some examples can have a low to moderately low wild character described as barnyard, earthy, goaty but should not be as intense as in a lambic/fruit lambic. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Color can range from gold to dark brown. Reddish/ruby color is usually due to the use of red grape varieties. White to reddish head with generally a medium low retention. Clarity is generally good but can be affected by the use of grape.
Flavor: Many interpretations are possible. As with aroma, grape character (must or winey like) must be present but may range from subtle to medium intensity. Varieties of grape can contribute differently on the flavor profile: in general stone/tropical fruit flavors (peach, apricot, pineapple) can come from white grapes and red fruit flavors (e.g., cherry, strawberry) from red grape varieties. Further fruity character of fermentative origin is also common. Different kinds of special malts can be used but should be supportive and balanced, not so prominent as to overshadow the base beer. Roasted and/or strong chocolate character is inappropriate. Some sour notes are common and may help to improve the drinkability but should not be prominent as in Flemish ale/Lambic. Oak flavors, along with some barnyard, earthy, goaty notes, coming from aging in barrels can be present but should not be predominant. Bitterness and hop flavors are generally low. Diacetyl from very low to none.
Mouthfeel: Medium-high carbonation improves the perception of aroma. Body is generally from low to medium and some acidity can contribute to increased perception of dryness. Strong examples can show some warming but without being hot or solventy.
History: Produced by many Italian craft breweries during the last years, it represents a communion between beer and wine promoted to the large local availability of different varieties of grapes across the country. They can be an expression of territory, biodiversity and creativity of the brewer. Normally seen as speciality beer in the range of products of the brewery.
Ingredients: Pils or pale base malt with some adjuncts (if any) or special malts. Grape content can represent up 40% of whole grist. Grape or grape must (sometimes extensively boiled before use) can be used at different stages: boil, primary/secondary fermentation, or aging. Ale or wine yeast can show a neutral character (more common) or a fruity profile (English and Belgian strains). A wide range of hop varieties can be used in low quantities in order not to excessively characterize the beer.